Wednesday 14 November, 2018

Night owls ‘more likely to die early’

(File image of alarm clock via Pexels)

(File image of alarm clock via Pexels)

People who stay up late have a higher risk of dying sooner than those who function best in the morning, according to a new study by US and UK scientists.

The study, which looked at more than 430,000 adults in the UK, found “night owls” had a 10 percent higher risk of dying than “larks”.

The study, a joint project by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Surrey, was published in the journal Chronobiology International on Thursday.

The researchers asked participants, who were aged between 38 and 73, to classify themselves as one of four types – a "definite morning type", a "moderate morning type", a "moderate evening type" or a "definite evening type". They then tracked deaths among these participants up to six and half years later.

The study found that being a night owl was associated with a higher rate of a variety of disorders including diabetes, psychological, neurological, respiratory and gastrointestinal/abdominal problems. “Further, increased eveningness was significantly associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality over 6.5 years,” the study said.

Kristen Knutson, one of the report’s lead authors and associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said this could be because “people who are up late have an internal biological clock that doesn't match their external environment".

"It could be psychological stress, eating at the wrong time for their body, not exercising enough, not sleeping enough, being awake at night by yourself, maybe drug or alcohol use. There are a whole variety of unhealthy behaviours related to being up late in the dark by yourself," she said.

Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey, described it as a public health issue that could no longer be ignored.

"We should discuss allowing evening types to start and finish work later, where practical. And we need more research about how we can help evening types cope with the higher effort of keeping their body clock in synchrony with sun time," he said.